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Why Relationships Are a Much Better Deal for Men

Discover why a body of research shows that coupled men live happier and longer.

Blend Images/Shutterstock
Source: Blend Images/Shutterstock

Many men (and women) have cold feet about committing to marriage or a long-term partnership. The men worry about turning into pot-bellied suburban dads taking out the trash and cleaning vomit-stained minivan backseats. They may fear that they'll envy their single friends and miss out on trips to Las Vegas. And then there's the supposedly gathering data suggesting that testosterone declines after parenthood. Is marriage effectively the end of manhood?

Hold on, guys: What does the data actually say? Just the opposite!

Marriage benefits men—and more so than it does women—in numerous different ways. Research shows that happily married men:

  • Are healthier overall.
  • Live longer—in fact, one study showed that having a partner in middle age is protective against premature death.
  • Show improved cancer outcomes.
  • Have better heart health.
  • Are less likely to engage in risky or unlawful behavior.
  • ... and even have stronger bones.

Why and how is marriage so good for men?

We could surmise about a lot of reasons, but here are a few research-backed findings:

1. Studies suggest that marriage may lead to healthier lifestyle. We are more likely to work out, eat at regular mealtimes, and eat a more balanced or healthy diet when we have a partner than when we are on our own.

2. Perhaps more important, a happy marriage provides a constant source of social connection. In addition to physical affection, a supportive marriage provides a source of constant and enduring friendship, which can boost well-being and confidence and foster resilience to life’s challenges. Social connection literally makes us thrive. We know from research that a lack of social connection leads to increased anxiety, depression, and mortality—and is even as unhealthy as obesity, high blood pressure, or smoking. However, when our social connection is high, it:

  • Increases well-being and happiness.
  • Boosts self-esteem, self-confidence, and resiliency.
  • Increases optimism and trust.
  • Leads to more friendly and outgoing behavior.
  • Increases longevity.
  • Strengthens immunity and leads to faster recovery from disease.
  • Provides resilience against life stresses.

(For more, see this post.)

3. Marriage provides an opportunity to serve. A large body of research shows that giving benefits our health outcomes and longevity more than receiving. As I’ve written, the best-kept secret of highly-successful couples is that partners are focused on serving each other. Numerous studies show the importance of kindness and service for one’s own well-being. And these results are especially true for men who marry after 25 and become happily married.

These findings mostly relate to fulfilling relationships. Does all of this mean that a man (or woman) should stay in an unhealthy or unhappy marriage or partnership, just for the presumed health benefits? Of course not. But it does mean that there is a lot to be said for the advantages of a relationship grounded in kindness and well-being.

Or as the saying attributed to Lao Tzu goes: Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

Here are more science-based relationship tips:

To stay updated on the science of happiness, health and social connection, see emmaseppala.com.

Emma is the founder of Fulfillment Daily, science-based news for a happier life.

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© 2014 Emma Seppala, Ph.D.

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